Critique

RECORDINGS

Ty Segall Ty Segall

A leader of the current generation of amped-up guitar/bass/drums auteurs delivers yet another raging slab of wax, this time backed by a totally in-tune drumming accomplice.

In “Break a Guitar,” the roaring opening salvo of neo-garage-rock icon Ty Segall’s new, self-titled album, Segall sings the line, “Oh, baby, take a guitar, I want you to be a big star.” But if the rhyme and rhythm had worked out, Segall could easily have chosen the word drumset instead. There’s an ecstatic, optimistic bounce to nearly everything the multi-instrumentalist has put down during his super-prolific ten-year recording career (he’s been a major contributor to more than forty solo and band releases thus far), and this new batch of songs is no exception. It’s simply impossible to listen to the man’s music and not want to immediately drop whatever it is you’re doing and go whale on your favorite axe.

Though Segall has played drums on his own and other artists’ albums, this one finds his regular collaborator CHARLES MOOTHART laying it down. Another gifted multi-instrumentalist, Moothart is totally simpatico with Segall, and takes the perfect approach to each of the leader’s mood turns, whether it’s the tumbling, cathartic, full-kit slamming demanded by “Break a Guitar” and “The Only One,” the hyper broken-up snare/tom/hats pattern of “Freedom,” the loosey-goosey space jamming of the ten-plus-minute “Warm Hands (Freedom Returned),” or the laid-back country-honk grooves of “Talkin’” and “Orange Color Queen.” If real, visceral rock ’n’ roll is to survive in the current ever-mechanized environment, Segall and Moothart could wind up being the artists we most look to for guidance. (Drag City) Adam Budofsky

Dave Douglas/Frank Woeste Dada People

CLARENCE PENN lends his cerebral approach to new sounds inspired by the past.

Essentially a post-bop collaboration between trumpeter Dave Douglas and pianist Frank Woeste, Dada People finds improvisational inspiration through the freedom of visual artists like Man Ray, and the results are at once striking and subtle. Douglas and drummer Clarence Penn have a history, so listening skills are on full display, as on the intricate give and take between both players on opener “Oedipe.” Penn’s assured dynamic sense and cymbal touch propel the crooked waltz of “Mains Libres,” and the drummer flirts between triple and duple feels but remains in absolute control. Dig the sloshy hats and odd times at the top of “Noire et Blanche,” before Penn solos briefly over a vamp with a flurry of snare singles and ride syncopations. Woeste adds a Fender Rhodes flavor in addition to his acoustic piano work, and Penn’s accompaniment seems to change along with that, so the music doesn’t ever feel stagnant. In these able hands, what’s old is new again. (Greenleaf Music) Ilya Stemkovsky

Terry Dolan Terry Dolan

Some forty years after it was recorded, the debut album of this cult country/folk/blues rocker has finally surfaced.

Warner Bros. Records inexplicably shelved this once-hidden gem in 1973, despite a stellar cast of musicians and the oversight of two producer/arrangers, multi-instrumentalist Pete Sears and piano man Nicky Hopkins (Rolling Stones, the Who, John Lennon). Jilted, Dolan eventually acquiesced, and in the ensuing decades built a strong following as the leader of the Bay Area phenomenon Terry and the Pirates. Dolan died in 2012 never knowing the fate of these songs, a tragic situation serving to underscore the poignancy of the performances.

On the first four tracks (what would have been the original LP’s first side), drummer PRAIRIE PRINCE (Tubes, Todd Rundgren, XTC) is nimble and busy, conversing with percussionist SPENCER DRYDEN (Jefferson Airplane, New Riders of the Purple Sage) and shadowing Hopkins’ polished flourishes and the lyrical flow of Dolan’s soaring and heartbreaking vocals. “Side two” features the crisp and steady hi-hat and snare work of Copperhead drummer DAVID WEBER, charging a musical atmosphere buzzing with intelligently designed guitar solos by Neal Schon (Journey, Santana). Worth the wait? Yes, but it’s mystifying that in the era of country rock and the singer-songwriter, the record label failed to recognize the intrinsic value of this material in the first place. (High Noon/Warner Bros.) Will Romano

Mark Dresser Seven Sedimental You

A wild but razor-sharp example of structured freedom from JIM BLACK.

If you’re looking for some finger-snappin’, spang-a-lang jazz, you ain’t gonna find it here. This exciting collection of improvisers assembled by bassist Mark Dresser is, rather, tasked to execute complex, ambitious, “on the edge of out” compositions and solo with abandon. But there’s nothing loose about Jim Black’s voice on the drumkit, with his use of extended techniques and ability to provide brilliant support. Trombone, clarinet, flute, violin, and piano round out the front line, so the tonal possibilities are vast. Black’s brushes and bass drum hits float underneath Marty Ehrlich’s clarinet pass in “I Can Smell You Listening” before the drums get busier and increasingly conversational alongside a more free solo turn from pianist Joshua White. Also check out the staccato punctuations and backbeats from Black on “Newtown Char.” From pianissimo sensitivity to chaotic bombast in the blink of an eye, Black is a master of the unexpected. (Clean Feed) Ilya Stemkovsky

Benny Greb’s Moving Parts Live

Elastic patterns and live fireworks of the subtle kind.

This impeccably recorded live document from Greb’s 2014 guitar/keys/drums trio tour highlights everything that’s great about the German drummer’s highly advanced conception of rhythm. While he might not show concern for an audience’s skeletal health—if you attempt to dance to this stuff, your ankles will break—Greb obviously loves to work our brain cells, diving into lots of sophisticated metric modulation executed with breathtaking control. The material is essentially groove-based electric fusion, but Greb pulls and stretches everything apart with insane fills anchored by an immovable internal clock. Check out the colorful use of multiple hi-hats and snares on “Next Question” and a show-stopping extended solo on “Nodding Hill,” on which the drummer toys with the time as the audience claps along. Known for his progressive books and instructional videos, Greb applies it all to a real-world live stage with masterful results. (Herzog) Ilya Stemkovsky

Afro Bop Alliance Big Band Revelation

Supersizing is a winning approach for this group’s brand of high-energy Afro-Caribbean jazz.

On its sixth outing, the ABA once again expands to a big band, and to be sure, this lineup is sonically colossal, it’s aggressive, and it drives. Drummer/leader JOE MCCARTHY is a grooving, precise player who lubricates his power flow with finesse and dramatic dynamics. His command informs the attitude and sound of the whole band, especially the crisp and nimble brass section.

Revelation is one of the group’s most adventurous discs, largely due to three complex ten-and-a-half-minute compositions by Roland Vazquez, who also conducts the numbers. On those excursions, the outfit expertly straddles a big band and orchestral mindset. McCarthy’s teamwork with conguero Samuel Torres is especially effective on the Vazquez number “Family of Four,” where they deftly guide the band between intricate, shifting grooves and textures. Another forward stride for this D.C.-based unit. (OA2 Records) Jeff Potter


TAKING THE REINS

Jerome Jennings The Beast

The Cleveland native swings and shuffles with the effortless dexterity of his childhood hero, Art Blakey, on his bandleader debut.

Boasting more than a decade’s worth of experience on the New York jazz scene, Jerome Jennings displays a knack for exploring variations on traditional jazz patterns within this collection of compositions. As a result, the nine tracks that comprise his first solo record manage to sound modern while maintaining the warmth and presence of the classic Impulse! label recordings that have enjoyed reissues in recent years. Some tunes on The Beast, like the New Edition tribute “Cool It Now,” feel like spiritual heirs of ’90s R&B, demonstrating the oft-overlooked common ground between jazz, second-line, and pop drumming. Others, such as the rearranged dessert-truck jingle “Ice Cream Dreams,” work as innovative re-imaginings of mid-century jazz. Overall, The Beast serves as a potential turning point in an already successful career, adding “dynamic bandleader” to Jennings’ impressive résumé. (Iola) Keaton Lamle


MULTIMEDIA

A Farewell to Kings
Rush Time Stand Still
Neil Peart Far and Wide: Bring That Horizon to Me!

Sometime in 2015, during Rush’s R40 run commemorating its fortieth anniversary as a band, Neil Peart kinda, sorta announced he was retiring from touring. Well, the mystery can be put to rest, as these two releases confirm the end of an era.

As a documentary, Time Stand Still avoids a detailed career retrospective, instead focusing on inter-band relationships and the looming and bittersweet finality of the last shows. Sprinkled throughout are R40 performance clips, crew interviews, and fan musings on what the band has meant to them. Most illuminating to diehards will be descriptions of Neil Peart’s history of ailments, from elbow tendinitis to fungal infections. In that light, it’s a miracle the last tour happened at all. Peart’s “Drum Also Waltzes” backstage warm-up routine and an hour-long snippet of live footage from the Presto tour are welcome bonuses. (Rounder, $16.49 Blu-ray/13.99 DVD)

The book Far and Wide continues Peart’s erudite and personal writing style, bringing the reader along on his motorcycle adventures. Neil looks back on the R40 tour and five decades of drumming with humor and humility, but ultimately with the satisfaction of having achieved something with those “two lumps of wood,” and he leaves at the top of his game, one he helped invent and refine over time.

(ECW Press, $32.95)

These two titles are a must for fans of Rush and its legendary drummer. Let’s hope at least the studio beckons in Peart’s future.

Ilya Stemkovsky